“As a Wharton grad, I feel prepared for any challenge because I have this community of people standing by me for life.” – Neha Rastogi, WG’24

Behind every successful Wharton MBA Program for Executives student is a supportive personal network. Partners, friends, and family become invaluable champions for students as they navigate the highs and lows of their two years with Wharton. Neha Rastogi, WG’24, knows the importance of a fully supportive community while pursuing an executive MBA. She shares her experience applying and getting accepted to the program twice, at two vastly different junctures in her life.

Balancing Personal Life and Academic Dreams

A seasoned technology product leader with 20+ years of experience, Neha initially applied to Wharton’s EMBA program in 2014. Her life may have looked perfect from the outside; as a Product and Engineering Manager at Apple, she developed iconic technologies such as Siri, FaceTime, and iMessage, and had just been accepted to one of the world’s top business schools.

“I was over the moon to be admitted,” recalls Neha. “I grew up in a small town in India and never thought I would pursue an education at a school like Wharton. But at the time I was admitted to the program, I was in a very unsupportive personal relationship. Unfortunately, that situation resulted in me declining the offer of admission which I had worked so hard for. It broke me in a way because I felt I had to give up not only that dream but also the part of me who is a dreamer.”  

After a few years of self-discovery and healing, Neha was back on her feet and living a more peaceful life. Moving on both professionally and personally, she landed a new position as Mobile Tech Lead at Walmart Global Tech and decided to end her previous relationship. While grateful for her ability to get out of a difficult situation, she notes that her experience of persistence, survival, and resilience is not unique.

“This is my story, but I can appreciate that many of us in the WEMBA program have experiences of overcoming adversity through resilience and determination and coming out stronger.”

The Journey to an MBA

In a surprising shift of destiny, Neha went on to meet and marry Wharton MBA Program for Executives graduate Pranav Sharma, WG’16.

“It is a wild coincidence,” admits Neha, who met Pranav through a mutual friend after her divorce. “He graduated from the same WEMBA class I would have graduated from had I accepted the admission offer back in 2014.”

Heeding encouragement from her husband and his Wharton alumni friends, Neha began looking into Wharton’s EMBA program again when she moved into a Director of Product role at Mozilla.

 “Up until that point, I had developed my abilities organically on the job,” she says. “But as the scale of my position grew and the reach of my products increased, I realized I needed a formal business education to help me round out my skills.”

Enjoying the Uninorte hospitality, Carnival style, during a Global Modular Course in Colombia this year. (Image: Neha Rastogi)

With the Wharton community already rallying around her, Neha applied and was accepted again for the Executive MBA class of 2024.

“I was shocked when I got the congratulations call from Director of Admissions, Barbara Craft,” recalls Neha. “It was an emotional moment for me. Part of me didn’t want to apply again because of the fear of rejection. But my husband and his WEMBA buddies reassured me, championed me, and convinced me that I could do it. There were voices in my head telling me I couldn’t do it, but more voices told me I could.”

Finding a Supportive Community at Wharton

Once at Wharton, Neha found strong support in a community of her own. In her first year of the program, she enrolled in the McNulty Leadership Program’s Women’s Leadership Roundtables. In this six-week program, small groups of full-time and Executive Wharton MBA students participate in conversations around bias, gender equity, and frameworks for self-reflection.

“The Women’s Leadership Roundtable was my very first close-knit, safe network experience in the program,” recalls Neha. “This was a group of six women, three in the first year and three in the second year of the MBA program. We shared our most hidden vulnerabilities, fears, and passions and celebrated them. The support we got from each other and the commonalities in our experiences were eye-opening.”

Neha also sought out mentorship opportunities throughout the program to ensure she made the most of her experience.

“In one of Professor Michael Useem’s courses, we were introduced to Maggie Wilderotter, former CEO of Frontier Communications. She gave a talk about her experience on the Board of Directors at DocuSign, and I connected with her after the session to learn more about her role. She’s become a mentor to me, and recently hosted a Boot Camp for Wharton women and allies which coached us on board service. I would never have gotten connected with Maggie on my own. Wharton opens those doors and connects students to incredible people.”

A trip to Plaza Bolívar with friends. (Image: Neha Rastogi)

In addition, Neha embarked on a Global Modular Course (GMC) this spring, studying emerging economies in Bogota, Medellin, and Barranquilla, Colombia. These international study opportunities provide students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture while networking with students from other cohorts and the full-time MBA program. Neha looks forward to traveling to Rwanda for another GMC later this term, focused on conflict, leadership, and change.

– Kendra King

Posted: March 29, 2024

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